Going back in time

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 May, 2011, 12:00am


The most popular destinations in Chongqing are a cruise down the Three Gorges to Yichang and a day trip to the Buddhist carvings in Dazu.

The group of Buddhist cave sculptures that rival those at Datong, Dunhuang, and Luoyang is worth the effort to reach if you have the opportunity.

The impressive sculptures, ranging from tiny to gigantic, contain unusual domestic detail in addition to the purely religious work.

There are two major sites at Dazu, Bei Shan and Baodingshan. Work at the caves began in the 9th century, during the Song and Tang dynasties, and continued for more than 250 years. Dazu is now officially a Unesco site.

Located outside Dazu, Baodingshan, where the carvings were completed according to a plan, is the more interesting site.

Here you will find visions of hell reminiscent of similar scenes from medieval Europe; the wheel of life; a magnificent 100-foot reclining Buddha; and a gold, thousand-armed statue of the Guanyin, the goddess of mercy.

The best way to reach Dazu is to book a tour through your hotel or a travel agency. If you would like to go it alone, there are minibuses by Jiefangbei that can take you there for about 150 to 200 yuan (HK$179 to HK$239) for a round trip.

The spectacular scenery of the Three Gorges - Qutang, Wu, and Xiling - has survived the rising waters of the newly dammed Yangtze River.

A trip through the Three Gorges offers a glimpse of a way of life that is rapidly disappearing.

Panoramas of hills covered with rice fields, fishermen scooping the waters with large nets from the shores, and cliffs and clouds parting to reveal narrow passages of water barely wide enough for two boats are the images that have persisted for centuries.

Cruise ships are divided into domestic and foreign vessels. The domestic ships have first, second and third-class areas, whereas the foreign cruises do not separate their cabins into classes, they are all of one luxury standard.

Domestic cruises are much cheaper.

Ticket prices are subject to change monthly, depending on demand and season, so be sure to book ahead of time.